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Best Survival Guns: Handguns, Shotguns and Rifles for the Survivalist

Any gun is a survival gun in a survival situation, but we'd pick one of these if we had our druthers

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survival guns
What makes a good survival gun? Well, there's no one perfect survival gun, because each life-or-death situation is different. But at the very least, it should thrive in tough conditions and shoot commonly available ammo. It also doesn't hurt if the gun is affordable and the rounds it shoots are affordable enough to allow for lots of target practice. With that in mind, I have carefully considered reliability and durability when making my picks for this survival guns gallery. I also looked at ammunition as a major factor in the selection of these guns. In the event of an emergency, a firearm that requires some exotic round could leave a person defenseless when his supply runs out. Check out my list of the best handguns, shotguns and rifles for a variety of different survival situations. Tim MacWelch
survival guns
Sig Sauer P226
This is my favorite handgun and also one of the most popular Sig Sauer pistols carried by police officers and the military. The 9mm holds 15 rounds, and weighs 34 ounces with a full magazine. It is also available in .40 and .357 caliber. It retails for $800 to $900, but in this case you are getting what you pay for. OL
survival guns
Glock 36
Some may consider this subcompact pistol a "Baby Glock," but can you really call anything firing a .45-caliber round "baby"? I think not. It is a slim pistol that leaves my pinky finger squeezing air on the grip, but it's great for concealed carry. It weighs a mere 27 ounces (with a full magazine of six rounds) thanks largely to its lightweight composite frame. It retails right around $500. OL
survival guns
Glock 17
This full-sized 9mm is bigger than the Glock 36, and it is another popular handgun with law enforcement officers. It weighs in at 32 ounces with a full magazine of 17 rounds. The heavier overall weight means reduced recoil, making this handgun a great choice for new shooters. The average retail price is about $440. Take care of this gun and it will take care of you, for a long, long time. OL
survival guns
Springfield XD Service Model
The 4-inch service model features a Glock-type trigger safety, which just might be a little nicer that an actual Glock safety. The gun has a large beveled magazine well, to enhance quick reloading of the 16-round magazine. While it is certainly not a precision target pistol, it does have the mechanical capability of shooting some tight groups with practice and favorable ammo, such as Federal M882 124-grain FMJ. The average retail price is around $470 OL
survival guns
Smith & Wesson .40 M&P
The .40 M&P is indeed a fun gun to shoot. It has an extremely comfortable grip and an ample grip tang to protect your hand. The recoil is unusually light, especially for a polymer-framed .40 caliber pistol. The magazine holds 15 rounds. It retails right under $600. OL
survival guns
Taurus Judge
The Judge revolver shoots both .45 Long Colt loads and .410 shells. It's perfect for snake country loaded with .410s, and is devastating as a close-quarters self-defense handgun when loaded with either .45s or .410 shells. One limiting factor is that the longest shell it will carry is 2 ½ inches, but with the variety of loads on the market in this length, it's not a deal breaker. The Judge weighs 37 ounces and is 9½ inches long so it's not exactly concealed carry material, but it should find a home in your go-bag. It retails for $600. OL
survival guns
Smith & Wesson Airlite
Smith & Wesson's Airlite .357 Magnum revolver is a lot of power in a small, lightweight, easy-to-carry package. Weighing just 12 ounces empty, with a Scandium alloy frame and a Titanium cylinder, the Airlite is the strongest and lightest .357 Magnum revolver currently made. Perfect for concealed carry or a small bug-out bag. It holds 5 rounds and retails for a little over $800. OL
survival guns
Ruger RedHawk
The Redhawk .44 Magnum revolver is a double-action powerhouse. The stainless steel construction is strong enough to handle the Magnum loads and whatever the outdoors can throw at it. The Redhawk also makes a formidable sidearm as a bear back-up and for self defense. Several models are available, all holding 6 rounds, and ranging from 46 to 54 ounces and from $990 to $1,050. OL
survival guns
Mossberg 590 Mariner
The 590 Mariner is a 9-shot 12 gauge that shoots great and has a reasonable price tag, just under $500. You may find it as a kit, including a pistol grip to replace the stock for use in tighter spaces. It fires 3-inch or 2¾-inch shells, and like other Mossbergs, can be tricked out with lots of accessories. It weighs 7 pounds empty and has a 20-inch stainless barrel, making it an ideal gun for harsh costal environments and a good option to throw in the boat on wilderness trips. OL
survival guns
Remington 870
With almost 30 different models to choose from, there is a version for every hunting and tactical need you can imagine. It has a reliable and smooth pump action (I'd even say it's smoother than Mossberg), and it can be fitted with an extension tube to hold a total of 7 shells. Maybe you prefer the price or the position of the safety on the Mossberg, but the reliability and smoothness of action of the 870 are legendary. Most models start around $400 and weigh about 7 pounds empty. Pictured: 870 Express Tactical A-TACS Camo OL
survival guns
Winchester Super X Pump Defender
Great action, short barrel, light weight, reasonable price–I think we just found our best value in a tactical shotgun. The Winchester Super X Pump Defender is very comparable to the tactical Mossbergs, though you might save a few bucks depending on which model you choose. The Defender has non-glare metal surfaces with a tough composite stock and forearm. It can also be accessorized with quite a few bells and whistles. It holds 6 shots, 5 in the tube and one in the chamber; it weighs 6 pounds 4 ounces empty; and it retails for $400. OL
survival guns
Benelli Nova Pump Tactical
This well-made tactical shotgun can handle everything from light 2¾-inch load to 3½-inch magnum loads. My only beef: It only holds 5 shells. The model with the 18½-inch barrel weighs 7.2 pounds. This gun ranges from $400 to $600, depending on which model you choose. OL
survival guns
Mossberg Flex
This gun is made for the creative survivalist. The new Mossberg FLEX Series modular shotgun is not just your typical old Mossberg 500. The Flex allows stocks, fore-ends and recoil pads to be switched for a variety of shooting applications, or an easy "custom fit." You don't even need to be a gunsmith to switch out the parts. The patent-pending Tool-less Locking System is a series of three connectors that allows the parts to be swapped with your bare hands. The Flex system is available in Mossberg 500 and 590 platforms, with packages costing between $600 and $900. These prices aren't bad when you consider that your one shotgun can now go from turkey to tactical to target by swapping a few pieces. Click the link for video on the new Mossberg Flex. OL
survival guns
Weatherby SA-459 TR
The semi-auto Weatherby SA-459 TR is available in 12 and 20 gauge. Both models have a pistol grip butt stock, a fiber optic blade front sight and a removable rear sight with ghost ring. The synthetic stock keeps the empty weight low (6½ pounds for the 12 gauge) with an 18½-inch barrel. It sells for $700. This gun is a sweet shooter and won the 2011 Great Buy award in Outdoor Life's 2011 Gun Test. OL
survival guns
Bushmaster AR-15
Active military, former military and civilians alike love this widely available version of the M-4. The Bushmaster AR-15 rifle shoots both 5.56mm and .223-caliber rounds. The price starts at $1,200 and goes on up, if you can find them. Thanks to a number of aluminum and synthetic parts, its empty weight is just 7.56 pounds. If the 30-round magazine doesn't get the job done, you've got bigger problems than a single rifle can handle. Pictured: M4 A2 (above) and M4 A3 (below) OL
survival guns
Springfield Armory M6 Scout
The M6 Scout is a multipurpose firearm, combining a rifle and a shotgun. It has been in and out of commercial production since the late 1970s, and was designed to be a survival gun for pilots. The stripped down weapon is all steel with 2 barrels, and a bantam weight of 4.7 pounds. The top barrel shoots a .22 LR round and the bottom barrel shoots a .410 shotgun round. Both types of rounds can be stored in the butt stock, and the gun barrel can be easily removed to break down for storage. It shoots fine for what it is–a Swiss army knife of a gun. Its Achilles heel is the hinge pin, because if it gets lost, you're screwed. If you can find the gun it will probably run you about $200, depending on the finish. OL
survival guns
Henry Arms AR-7
This clever gun breaks down and all of its parts store nicely in the butt stock. Like the original US Survival Rifle, this latest take on the semi-auto survival gun is light and portable at 3½ pounds and just 16½ inches when all the components are stowed. It comes with two 8-round magazines. This rifle would fit easily in a backpack or BOB, and because it's chambered in .22 LR, you can carry a large quantity of ammunition, without adding much weight to your gear. Look for this rifle to retail for $275. OL
survival guns
Ruger 10/22
The ubiquitous 10/22 could be the only small game rifle you'll ever need. It comes with a 10-round rotary magazine, but aftermarket 50-round magazines are available for about $20. There is a massive after market for this gun, with many options for target barrels, scope mounts, replacement stocks, trigger assemblies, etc. Starting at $200, this rifle will keep your stew pot full for cheap. OL
survival guns
It wouldn't be a survival gun list without the AK-47. With abundant ammo, 60-plus years of field testing, and "drag it through the sand and it'll still shoot" durability, the AK is a classic combat weapon. Shooting 7.62x39mm rounds from a 30-round magazine, it certainly makes up for any accuracy problems with its brute force and intimidation. Post-ban production models from Russia, Hungary and Romania are available for roughly $500. OL
survival guns
Marlin 1985 GS
The Marlin 1985GS is a lever-action .45/70 carbine that can take on any kind of game and any kind of weather. This stainless steel 4 shot has an 18½-inch barrel with an overall length of just 37 inches. It weighs 7 pounds, and the average retail price is about $660. This is big game-dropping power in a short, weatherproof gun; and it's got "survival in bear country" written all over it. OL
survival guns
Marlin Papoose
The Marlin Papoose is a semi-auto .22 rifle that breaks down compactly. You can literally take it apart and put it back together in a matter of seconds. It features stainless steel construction and a rugged fiberglass-filled black synthetic stock. The Papoose has a 7-shot magazine, and is a very accurate shooter. The break down barrel is a snap to clean, and the gun comes with a floating case. It's a featherweight at 3¼ pounds. The asking price averages around $270. OL
survival guns
So which gun is the best survival gun? I can definitively say that it's the gun:
● That's with you.
● That you have ammo for.
● That you've received quality training for.
● That you've spent a lot of hours shooting. Remember that no amount of research, messageboard chatting and the like can take the place of qualified, real-life training with each of the different guns in our gallery. That training also needs to be backed up with generous amounts of target practice. For more gun galleries, click on the links below. Best Slug Guns: OL Picks the 15 Best Shotguns for Deer Hunting
50 Best Hunting Rifles of the Past 10 Years
The 30 Best Shotguns of the Last 10 Years
The 50 Best Guns Ever Made
25 Greatest Deer Rifles Ever
First Look: 11 Best Rifles for 2012 OL